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Five ways to stop your credit cards from making you poorer

by Peter Andrew
Five ways to stop your credit cards from making you poorer

1. Recognize the Problem

Companies that issue credit cards are currently working out how to keep their profits healthy under the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (CARD). And they’ve been:

  • Increasing interest rates. making credit card debt expensive
  • Slashing credit limits
  • Imposing annual fees
  • Introducing draconian new penalties for late payments, and other infringements

It’s very likely that the terms and conditions for all your credit cards have changed over the last few weeks and months.

2. Understand How Your Credit Cards Have Changed

You almost certainly have recently received notifications from the issuers of your credit cards, telling you about changes to your terms and conditions. If you’re lucky, these have been mailed to you in their own envelopes. But many companies simply enclosed them with monthly card statements. And most people toss such enclosures into the trash without even glancing at them.

You really need to find those notifications and read and understand them. If they’re lost, then check your credit cards’ web sites or call your issuers and ask them to resend the documentation.

This is important. Associated Press recently reported that one Amex customer’s interest rate has jumped from 6.99 percent to 10.24 percent. Worse, if the customer is late making a single payment, that rate can rocket up to 27.24 percent.

3. Identify the Best Credit Card for Your Usage

The population that carries credit cards pretty neatly divides into two similarly sized groups:

  • Those who pay off only a part of their balance each month
  • Those you pay off their entire balance every month

Because credit card debt is so expensive, those who are in the first group should always select on the basis of low interest rates. Those in the second, should look for the rewards (cash rewards are usually best) that suit them, along with low or zero annual fees.

4. Don’t Switch Credit Cards Before You’ve Done Some Homework

Don’t burn your boats with one issuer before you’ve lined up another. And don’t apply for another card before you’ve checked your credit score. Just applying for credit can damage your credit.

If your FICO credit score’s under 700, then you’re unlikely to be eligible for any card, and should stay with your current issuer. If it’s over 750, then you can probably get any credit cards you want.

5. Transferring Your Credit Card Balances Isn’t Always Cheap

The L.A. Times has pointed out that balance transfer fees can be up to five percent of the amount transferred, and you have to add that fee to the new card’s interest rate in order to see if switching credit cards makes economic sense. The article gave an example of a five percent balance transfer fee and a new card interest rate of 7.9 percent. For the first year, the cost of the new card would be very nearly 13 percent. That may well not be the best credit card deal for you.

Using these 5 tips can help you make some informed choices about getting the best credit card for your credit situation.

Disclaimer:The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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